There are few topics that seem more crucial to digital transformation than filling the IT skills gap.
From investing in internal education and training programs to battling for fresh talent with perks, paychecks, and more purposeful work, IT leaders are tuned into the need for top talent.
But recent studies reveal an alarming trend: The skills gap is only getting wider. The traditional means organizations use to close it are becoming less and less effective. Perhaps it’s time we re-think our approach to IT resourcing?
Why IT can’t keep up with growing IT skills demand
According to a Cisco survey of 600 senior IT and non-IT business leaders, IT skill sets are in hot demand. Nearly half of all billion-dollar enterprises are currently pursuing, or about to pursue, a major transformation to IT infrastructure and operations. But a staggering 93 percent of those same businesses say an IT talent gap is “preventing them from transforming fast enough.”
Whether its lacking in-house expertise in cloud, automation or artificial intelligence, the report suggests nine in 10 businesses cannot adequately take on disruption with their current roster of in-house IT professionals.
While it’s tough to quantify just how costly a delay to innovation may be, the root causes behind skills shortfalls are clear. IT departments are relying on out-dated approaches to filling skills gaps — and these methods simply aren’t cutting it.
Organizations rely on hiring new employees or re-skilling employees in 91 percent of cases. They tend to only look to outsourcing for extremely new and emerging technologies, such as machine learning or artificial intelligence, says the Cisco report. Unfortunately, half of those same companies say they cannot hire or find talent fast enough. And five in 10 companies say they cannot afford retraining staff for all new requirements.
The changing landscape for IT skills
As organizations try — and fail — to plug gaps by bringing in new hires or skilling up existing teams, the talent market is undergoing major changes. Highly-skilled professionals know they possess something incredibly valuable. They also have grown to expect flexibility, exciting new projects, and the independence to work on the fun stuff and move on once things get dull. Even if you could hire a rock star, chances are your next challenge would be keeping them engaged and interested enough to hang around.
This is all part of a larger phenomenon called the gig economy. It’s estimated that 57 million Americans are freelancing. Other studies show that higher-skilled resources (such as those in technology) are more likely to pursue contractual opportunities than full-time employment.
Time to re-think your approach to resourcing
With all that said, it’s probably a good time for IT leaders to re-consider how they are filling resourcing needs. While there is no silver bullet, there are a number of strategies worth exploring.
Embrace more outsourcing: There is a reason that contract workers outnumber direct employees at Google. The tech behemoth has realized that one of the best ways to drive profits and move quickly is by outsourcing. While many organizations are weary of outsourcing, there is no doubt this is where the talent is going. If you want to access the best of the best, you will need to find a way to embrace outsourcing in a way that works for you.
Strengthen your internal business acumen: You might not be able to hire or re-skill your workforce for every single technological innovation that comes out. And why should you? It’s a never-ending battle. The Cisco report suggested businesses should focus on hiring and skilling up IT resources for higher-level purposes, such as business acumen. In this model, your IT team develops a deep understanding of your unique position in the market – and becomes the qualified expert to lead the business forward and enable innovation. High-tech skills are just another commodity.
Have a strategic conversation about resourcing: All too often, resourcing is seen as a necessary evil. It’s time to change the conversation. Organizations have a unique opportunity to change the way they fill skills gaps and tackle market disruption. But that conversation can’t begin until you’ve taken a deep look at your existing approach and identified areas for improvement. How much should you be investing in training? Which skills do you need to hire for today, and which can you outsource? Businesses should map out digital transformation plans to existing training and hiring capacity. With those insights, you will be able to make informed decisions about what strategies you need to leverage into the future.
Let’s face it – IT resourcing needs to evolve
The IT skills gap is a reality all businesses must face. Traditional approaches have their place and can be effective. But if you are putting all your efforts into hiring and up-skilling existing resources, chances are high you will spend too much time and money. And still not get the result or resources, you need.
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